If you are overly excited about the results of the midterm elections, your hope and confidence are misplaced. And equally so, if you’re despairing or doomsday-like about the midterm elections, this also is symptomatic of a misplaced hope.
Christian, engage in politics. Exercise your Christian social responsibility. But do not place your hope in the political arena.
Christ is king. He was king before this. He’s still king today. And he won’t stop being king at any time in the future. God’s kingdom purposes are sure and immutable. Our politics neither make him king, nor hinder his kingship.
Christ’s kingdom is everlasting and without end. It is the only kingdom that will ultimately last; and it will eventually eclipse all worldly kingdoms. These midterms are a mere a blip, a speck, on the timeline of God’s eternal purposes.
Engage. Don’t make too little of politics and dismiss it altogether. But don’t make too much of politics either — leading towards either despair or misplaced confidence.
Top (from left): Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Roy Moore. Bottom: John Besh, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Piven, and Richard Dreyfuss. (AP images)
The past month or so, we’ve seen incident after incident after incident of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct (Weinstein, Franken, Moore, etc.). We’ve witnessed (or participated in) the #MeToo trend, bringing awareness to and identifying what is apparently a pervasive problem in our society. Yet, as these scandals have unfolded, many have responded with shock and surprise. “I can’t believe that [so and so] did that…”
Christians believe in the doctrine of sin — that humanity is broken and rebellious against God, rejecting his good purposes. And so, on the one hand, Christians are never totally surprised when humanity acts heinously. We have theological categories for this.
On the other hand, there’s a certain level of shock that should always be present — a shock that matches the degree of sin’s audacity. Even as we understand humanity’s disposition to sin and propensity to commit great acts of evil, this reality doesn’t make sin any less appalling. Furthermore, due to God’s (common) restraining grace on humanity, we expect people to treat others with a certain base-level of dignity, even in their sinfulness.
But, at this point in the cultural story, if you’re still surprised when the latest sexual assault scandal emerges, you shouldn’t be.
As always, James K.A. Smith is equally perceptive of cultural habits as he is insightful in his analysis of them.
In today’s The NFL’s Thanksgiving games are a spectacular display of America’s ‘God and country’ obsession, published over at the The Washington Post, Smith plays on a common thesis in his writings:
Whereas many see our culture’s habits, traditions, and institutions as mundane, non-religious affairs, James sees much more at stake. They are competing rituals, or “religious” liturgies competing for our worship and shaping our loves.
Christian worship is formative — forming us into a people who love Christ and his kingdom. Our competing cultural “liturgies” (e.g., here: a traditional NFL Thanksgiving; or in other places in Smith’s writing: e.g., the mall as a house of worship for consumerism — quite relevant for tomorrow’s Black Friday) have a deformative power, pulling on our affections and, in the process, misplacing them (idolatry).